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4 Most Common Behavioral Addictions


When you think of an addiction, you most likely think of an individual who has become dependent upon drugs or alcohol. Substances have become the face of addiction due to the epidemic of substance abuse in America. In fact, it was estimated that in 2014, 21.5 million Americans above the age of 12 had a significant problem with drugs or alcohol. However, alcohol and drugs are not the only things Americans abuse or are addicted to. Certain behaviors cause similar “highs” as drugs and alcohol do, therefore opening up the ability for addiction. And that’s when we stumble upon the magic word of behavioral addiction and what is it.

Behavioral addictions, also known as non-substance addictions or addictive behaviors, are defined as being addicted to a set of actions that creates calming feelings or even euphoria in the user. Many individuals disregard behavioral addictions because they are harder to diagnose than an addiction to a substance. This is because most of the addiction is psychological, and as a result, there are fewer symptoms that are physically seen. While behavioral addictions are difficult to diagnose, these addictions are very real and cause severe social, emotional, and psychological damage if left untreated. If you are concerned that you may suffer from a behavioral addiction, read more to learn about the most common behavioral addictions.

1: Gambling Addiction

Gambling addiction, also known as pathological gambling, compulsive gambling, or gambling disorder, is one of the most common behavioral addictions today. If you are addicted to gambling, you cannot control the impulse to gamble, even if you have suffered severe consequences. Additionally, gambling addiction is often associated with other mood or behavior disorders such as substance abuse issues, unmanaged ADHD, stress, depression, anxiety, or bipolar disorder.

Symptoms of gambling addiction include:

  • Gambling with bigger and bigger sums in order to attain the same thrill
  • Becoming irritable when attempting to reduce gambling
  • Making repeated attempts to cut back or stop gambling
  • Being preoccupied with gambling and constantly thinking about past experiences and upcoming opportunities
  • Gambling when depressed or anxious
  • Returning to gamble after a bad outing, to recoup losses
  • Concealing or mischaracterizing the extent of the gambling
  • Losing or being close to losing a valued relationship, job or opportunity because of gambling
  • Seeking financial help from others after gambling losses

2: Sex Addiction

Sex addiction, or compulsive sexual behavior, is the act of an individual being unable to control their sexual behavior. If someone is addicted to sex, thoughts of sex interfere with their ability to work, maintain relationships, and complete daily activities. According to the World Health Organization, sexual addiction is “characterized by a persistent pattern of failure to control intense, repetitive sexual impulses or urges resulting in repetitive sexual behavior.”

Sex addiction is probable if an individual meets any of the following criteria:

  • repetitive sexual activities that become a central focus of the person’s life
  • numerous unsuccessful efforts to significantly reduce repetitive sexual behavior
  • continued repetitive sexual behavior despite adverse consequences or deriving little or no satisfaction from it
  • a pattern of failure to control intense sexual impulses or urges and the resulting repetitive sexual behavior over an extended period
  • persistent behaviors that cause marked distress or significant impairment in personal, family, social, educational, and occupational function, as well as in other important areas

3: Video Game Addiction

Vidoe game addiction is defined as the inability to stop or limit the amount of time spent playing games, despite facing social, financial, or psychological consequences. Individuals who are addicted to video games typically suffer from poor social skills, low-self esteem, and additional mental health conditions such as depression. When these individuals play video games, they receive feelings of calmness or euphoria as a result, hence, starting the cycle of addiction.

Diagnostic criteria for video game addiction include:

  • Repetitive use of video games, often with other players, leads to significant issues with functioning
  • Preoccupation or obsession with video games.
  • Withdrawal symptoms when not playing video games.
  • A build-up of tolerance, meaning more time needs to be spent playing the games.
  • The person has tried to stop or limit playing video games but has failed to do so.
  • The person has had a loss of interest in other life activities, such as hobbies.
  • A person has had continued overuse of video games even with the knowledge of how much they impact a person’s life.
  • Lying to others about his or her video game usage.
  • Using video games to relieve anxiety or guilt—it’s a way to escape.
  • The person has lost or put at risk and opportunity or relationship because of Internet games.

4: Shopping Addiction

Another common behavioral addiction is referred to as shopping addiction or compulsive buying disorder. Individuals suffering from shopping addiction compulsively buy things to relieve negative emotions like anxiety, pain, and sadness. Much like any other addiction, the act of shopping will take priority over everything else in a person’s life. As a result, many individuals suffer from severe financial issues as a result of their addiction to shopping.

Common signs of shopping addiction include:

  • Spending money when you are angry
  • Spending money when you are anxious
  • Spending money when you are depressed
  • Arguing about spending habits
  • Feeling lost if you are not spending
  • Purchasing items on credit when you don’t have the cash to cover them
  • Feeling a rush when shopping
  • Feeling guilty or embarrassed about shopping after the fact
  • Obsessing about money

Treatment for Behavioral Addictions

Just like an addiction to substances, behavioral addictions are treated through the combination of behavioral therapies and group support. Individuals with behavioral addictions should always seek professional behavioral addiction treatment. During behavioral addiction treatment, individuals will address the root causes of their addiction and learn vital impulse control tactics as well as healthy coping mechanisms for negative emotions. If you or a loved one is suffering from a behavioral addiction, contact Agape Treatment Center today.

Call the Agape Treatment Center admissions team at 888-614-0077 to learn more about what our addiction and mental health facilities can do for you or your loved one.

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